Sketch of an Original Pioneer
John Buck
Author unknown

John Buck, the father of John J. Buck, who is well known as county clerk of this county, died at the residence of another of his sons, William W. Buck, a former county commissioner of the county, at eleven o'clock p.m. on Saturday, August 4th, 1883.  Mr. Buck was one of the earliest pioneers of this county, and I believe, is the last of the originals--those who came here before Illinois was a State--and his family history is by no means uninteresting.  His father, Warner Buck, was born and raised in the Electorate or Principality of Hesse in Germany, and was about 18 years old at the time of the breaking out of the American Revolution, just old enough to enter the military service according to the laws of that country; and when King George made his purchase of Hessian soldiers to aid him in suppressing the "American Rebellion", young Warner Buck was among those sent to America in the service of the British King.  He was not destined to be of much service to the king, however, for on that memorable Christmas night when Washington forced the ice of the Delaware, defeated the British at Trenton, and captured a thousand Hessian soldiers, Warner Buck was one of them.  He was held a prisoner of war about three years, when he was exchanged; but during his long imprisonment with the Americans he had become so attached to them and so impressed with the justice of their cause, that he determined not to fight against them, and quietly went to work to organize a company to desert in a body to the Americans.  When we remember the rigid discipline that prevailed in those days, and the unfeeling British officers that commanded the Hessian troops, we can understand what was risked in even breathing such a thought, but young Buck succeeded in getting twelve of his comrades to agree to join him in a break for Washington's lines.  When the time came, however, all backed out but one, and, choosing their opportunity, the two made their escape, and after many hardships, succeeded in reaching what had been the American camp only to find it deserted.  Those were not days of railroads and telegraphs, besides the two Hessian fugitives could not speak a word of English, and if they could, they were in a country of equally mixed friend and foe--Whig and Tory--and their very looks and language betrayed them; but by cunning and perseverance they finally reached the American lines without capture, which would have been certain death.  Young Buck left a good property in Germany--this was confiscated and his life was declared forfeited.  An effort was made some years ago to recover this property, now a valuable estate, but a drunken lawyer at Shawneetown lost the documentary evidence in the case, and so the matter was dropped.

Warner Buck, sometime after this escape, married a lady by the name of Slasher, and settled down in Virginia, and here John, the subject of this sketch, was born September 22, 1793, being the ninth child in the family.  About 1797, when John was some four years old, the family moved to Bowling Green, Kentucky, where they remained until 1805, when they again turned their faces westward, crossing the Ohio river and settled in what is no Gallatin county, near Shawneetown.  Here they made a business of hog raising, depending for feed mainly upon the vast quantities of acorns that the unbroken forests of Southern Illinois then bore--the "mast" never failed in those days.  As early as 1817, John Buck, then a young man, drove their hogs into what is now Hamilton County to take advantage of the superior white oak mast that was found in abundance here.  His camping place was on what is now L. A. Smith's farm, a short distance east of McLeansboro, and here in that year he helped to erect on the first cabins ever built in the county.

John Buck was married in Gallatin County, May 4, 1827, to Miss Eliza Cook, a justice of the peace by the name of Alexander Slack officiating.  Mrs. Buck died in 1839, having given birth to six children--one girl and five boys.  The girl and two of the boys died in infancy; the three other boys, John J., William W. and Alexander are still living and are well known citizens of this county.

After the death of his wife, Mr. Buck began to think of changing his place of residence, and, having become so favorably impressed with this region during his early visits to fatten hogs upon the mast, he concluded this would be a good place in which to find homes for the boys. Hence in 1840, he left Gallatin County and settled down for a permanent home in Beaver Creek precinct in Hamilton County.  In 1856 he joined the Christian Church at Mt. Pleasant, being received into the church and baptized by Elder Moses Goodwin.  Of this church he remained a member until his death.

Many incidents in Mr. Buck's pioneer life might be mentioned illustrative of his strength of will and force of character--essential elements of true frontiersman, but running back over more than three quarters of a century of life in Southern Illinois, the reader need not be told of adventure with wild beast and wilder men--they come up as naturally as the common place incidents of the present.

Mr. Buck never wore glasses.  At one time he thought he would have to do so, and procured a pair; these were broken in some way soon after he got them, and, as none could be had at that time nearer than Shawneetown, he made up his mind that he could do without them, and he did, never once becoming unable to read.  After being an inveterate tobacco user for about 40 years, he decided that tobacco was doing him no good, but rather an injury.  Dividing the plug he had among two person who were present, he remarked that he would not use tobacco anymore, and not another chew ever passed his lips.  This simply a hint thrown out to those who "can't quit."

Ninety years is a long time to live in this world--an age that few attain; but to live that long and do as little harm and make as few enemies as Uncle John Buck did, is well worthy of comment, and something of which to be proud.  Notwithstanding his great age, two sisters survive him--Rebecca Moutry and Mary Sherwood.

 From: Goshen Trails, Vol. 16; No. 4; Oct. 1980
Reprinted by permission

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